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AMA Foundation Excellence in Medicine Awards

Excellence in Medicine

Excellence in Medicine Award recipients Samuel A. Cassell, MD, Deborah A. Frank, MD, and Darryl C. Hunter, MD, Colonel, USAFR, pictured with Debasish Mridha, MD, and AMA Foundation Past President Edmond Cabbabe, MD.

Every year the AMA Foundation honors a select group of physicians and medical students who exemplify the medical profession's highest values: commitment to service, community involvement, altruism, leadership and dedication to patient care. The inspirational stories of these awardees demonstrate the enormous impact that one person can have in his or her community.

The 2016 awards celebration will be held June 10–12, 2016, in conjunction with the 2016 AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

The 2016 AMA Foundation Excellence in Medicine Awards program is supported by:

Read about our 2016 Excellence in Medicine Award winners and the 2016 Leadership Award winners.

Owen Garrick, MD, MBA

"Receiving the Leadership Award confirmed that we are not alone in our passion for excellence in medicine. We, as physicians, can stand together through the AMA Foundation to promote pride in the profession, whether that be through innovative research, policy impact, or caring for the underserved."
—Owen Garrick, MD, MBA

Pride in the Profession Award

Aiding underserved U.S. Patients

The Pride in the Profession Awards honor physicians whose lives encompass the true spirit of being a medical professional: caring for people. By practicing medicine in areas of challenge or crisis, or by devoting their time to volunteerism or public service, these physicians serve as the voice of patients in the United States who otherwise might not be heard.

2015 Recipient :  J. Emilio Carrillo, MD, MPH, New York

At New York-Presbyterian Hospital Dr. Carrillo leads a population-based program that addresses the health care needs of a large urban immigrant community by incorporating cultural competency, using information systems, and coordinating care across the continuum.

Dr. Carrillo’s research and collaborations have laid the foundation for patient-based cross-cultural health care. He designed and collaborated in the implementation and application of a cross-cultural medicine curriculum that has been adopted by many medical centers around the nation and internationally, and has helped to define the fields of cultural competency and cross-cultural communication.

Dr. Carrillo has inspired generations of Hispanic medical students and co-founded an organization that evolved into the Latino Medical Student Organization. He has also pioneered in community health through research, program innovation and launching the Journal of Latin Community Health and the Journal of Multicultural Community Health. He has served in many state and federal advisory councils, as well as advisory groups to the Governors of Massachusetts and New York State.


To qualify, nominees must:

  • Promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of the public health
  • Embody the values of the medical profession through leadership, service, excellence, integrity and ethical behavior
  • Enrich patients, colleagues and the community through dedicated medical practice or service
  • Offer better access to quality health care for an underserved patient population in the U.S.

A $2,500 grant will be given to the institution or organization with which the recipient works. The recipient will also receive travel expenses and accommodations to attend the Excellence in Medicine Awards ceremony.

Dr. Nathan Davis International Award in Medicine

Improving health care globally

Named for the founder of the AMA, the Dr. Nathan Davis International Award in Medicine recognizes physicians whose influence reach the international patient population and change the future of their medical care. By treating, educating and counseling patients beyond the U.S. border, the physician’s work is having a positive impact on health care in the global arena.

2016 Recipient:   Adam Levine, MD, MPH, Boston

Dr. Adam Levine is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Director of the Brown University Global Emergency Medicine Fellowship. He received his Medical Doctorate from the University of California, San Francisco and his Masters of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley before completing his specialty training in Emergency Medicine at the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency in Boston.

In recent years, Dr. Levine has responded to humanitarian emergencies in Haiti, Libya, South Sudan, and Liberia and has led research and training initiatives in Zambia, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone. He currently serves as the Emergency Medicine Coordinator for the USAID-funded Human Resources for Health Program, helping to develop the first Emergency Medicine training program in Rwanda; as Primary Investigator of the Ebola Research Team for International Medical Corps, a disaster and humanitarian relief organization; and as the Director for the new Humanitarian Innovation Initiative at Brown University, whose goals are to improve the quality and professionalize the delivery of humanitarian aid worldwide.

Dr. Levine also serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Academic Emergency Medicine's annual Global Emergency Medicine Literature Review. His own research focuses on improving the delivery of emergency care in resource-limited settings and during humanitarian emergencies.


To qualify, nominees must:

  • Have improved dramatically medical practice, medical education or medical research outside of the United States
  • Embody the values of the medical profession through leadership, service, excellence, integrity and ethical behavior
  • During a lifetime of service or in a current initiative, has benefited the health and well-being of a specific patient population

A $2,500 grant will be given to the institution or organization with which the recipient works.

The recipient will also receive travel expenses and accommodations to attend the Excellence in Medicine Awards ceremony.

Jack B. McConnell, MD Award for Excellence in Volunteerism

Senior physician volunteerism

The Jack B. McConnell, MD, Award for Excellence in Volunteerism recognizes the work of senior physicians who provides treatment to U.S. patients who lack access to health care. After a full career of practice, these physicians remain dedicated to the future of medicine through the spirit of volunteerism.

2016 Recipient :  Rafael A. Zaragoza, MD, Wyoming, Delaware

Dr. Rafael A. Zaragoza was born in Nativdad, Pangasinan in the Philippines and received his Doctor of Medicine Degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1954. He began his medical internship at The Lutheran Hospital in St. Louis. He was a medical and surgical resident at Trumbull Hospital in Ohio, then a Urology resident at Bellevue Hospital in New York, completing the process at Jersey City Medical Center. He was also a Special Fellow in Urologic Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

While awaiting his U.S. citizenship, he served at Kent General Hospital, in addition to applying for commission to the U.S. Army Medical Corps. After 2 years of active duty with the Corps, Dr. Zaragoza opened a private practice in Dover, Delaware. He received certification by The American Board of Urology in 1970 and became a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Zaragoza was a founding member of the Society of Philippine Surgeons in 1970, and has participated in its missions annually since 1990. “Operation We Care” was founded in 1995 on the belief that there was a need for more medical aid. He also organized The Dover Group, which comprises volunteer physicians, nurse and ancillary personnel, many of whom come from his own family. In addition, he formed the Volunteer Ambulatory Surgical Access Program, which provides free low-risk outpatient surgery to uninsured residents of Kent County who cannot afford private insurance and are ineligible for Medicaid. Participating surgeons and nurses are all volunteers, and use of operating rooms is free of charge. He also launched the Hope Clinic, which provides non-emergency medical care to the uninsured. Furthermore, he organized the Delaware Prostate Cancer Coalition, whose mission is to promote awareness of prostate cancer and the importance of early detection. Last year, the “Operation We Care Mission” was discontinued to allow other mission groups to serve the region, but Dr. Zaragoza still give his time and contributes to his communities in the United States and abroad.

2016 Recipient :  Charles Clements II, MD, Huntington, West Virginia

The Marshall Medical Outreach (MMO) was founded by Dr. Clements in concert with fellow 3rd-year medical students, an administrative assistant, and the support of the Medical School. What began 5 years ago has grown into what has become a necessary medical screening and treatment program for the homeless community. The MMO allows a daily average of 35 patients to receive family medicine, internal medicine, ophthalmology and dermatology treatment. Care is not limited to a simple doctor’s visit for many of the patients are referred to Recovery Point, a 100-person addiction treatment facility. Women who are receiving addiction treatment are in a court-supervised drug court and participants in activities to support themselves receive the essentials of hygiene, clothing and even gifts for their children during the holidays. Another outreach to the underserved woman is "Mamm and Glam," a bi-annual program providing free mammograms.

Dr. Clements, a former Boy Scout, volunteers as a Physician-in-Residence 1 week every summer at the Bechtel Summit Center, the High Adventure camp of the Boy Scouts of America in Beckley, West Virginia. While there, he supervises on-scene EMS and emergency treatment of injured scouts and visitors. In addition, he trains medical students to treat injuries and illnesses common to people who adventure outdoors.

Dr. Clements will spend his summer with a group of medical students on his 7th trip to treat rural, underserved villages in Honduras. Dr. Clements and his students will examine and treat more than 1500 people, perhaps providing the only medical attention they may see in a year or ever. All of this ties together in one theme—teaching medical students to be "doctors" rather than "providers," and to engage their medical skills into the community-at-large.


To qualify, nominees must:

  • Have volunteered a significant portion of their medical services while over the age of 55.
  • Demonstrate their commitment to health care access by assisting underserved U.S. patients.

A $2,500 grant will be given to the institution or organization with which the recipient works.

The recipient will also receive travel expenses and accommodations to attend the Excellence in Medicine Awards ceremony.

Dr. Debasish Mridha Spirit of Medicine Award

Selfless Elimination of Human Suffering

The Dr. Debasish Mridha Spirit of Medicine Award recognizes the work of a U.S. physician who has demonstrated altruism, compassion, integrity, leadership, and personal sacrifice while providing quality health care to a destitute, distressed, or marginalized population in an impoverished community.

2016 Recipient :  Jennifer A. Downs, MD, PhD, New York City

Dr. Jennifer Alzos Downs is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry). Dr. Alzo Downs obtained her Doctor of Medicine degree from Weill Cornell Medical College in 2004 and received her PhD in Parasitology from the University of Leiden (The Netherlands) in May 2016. She choose to pursue a career in global health during an elective rotation in rural Central America during medical school.

Dr. Downs completed her internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2007 and her Infectious Diseases fellowship at Weill Cornell Medical College in 2010. She made her first trip to Tanzania in 2007 where she worked as a resident and teacher in the wards at Bugando Medical Centre in Mwanza for six weeks. She returned to Mwanza where she established a home and gained fluency in the local language (Kiswahili) following the completion of her clinical infectious diseases training.

She is currently Assistant Professor of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Center for Global Health at Weill Cornell Medical College. She is also Lecturer in the Department of Medicine at Weill Bugando School of Medicine in Mwanza.

She devotes her time to research, teaching, and clinical care in Mwanz where she serves as a teacher, mentor, and dissertation supervisor for Master’s of Medicine post-doctoral Tanzanian students in Mwanza. She also trains and mentors students interested in global health careers including undergraduate students from Cornell University, graduate students from Weill Cornell Graduate School, and medical students from Weill Cornell in New York and Qatar and Weill Bugando in Tanzania. Dr. Downs is especially interested in fostering the careers of women scientists in global health.

Dr. Downs looks forward to continuing her work in Tanzania for many years to come. She and her husband David have three children.


To qualify, nominees must:

  • Have a U.S. medical license, but may practice anywhere in the world.
  • Demonstrate their commitment to health care access by assisting underserved patients and communities.

A $2,500 grant will be given to the institution or organization with which the recipient works.

The recipient will also receive travel expenses and accommodations to attend the 2014 Excellence in Medicine Awards ceremony.

Past Award Recipients

2013 Pride in the Profession Award

Mary Brennan Wirshup, MD, West Chester, PA

Mary Brennan Wirshup, MD, is the Vice President of Medical Affairs at Community Volunteers in Medicine (CVIM) in West Chester, Pennsylvania, a community-based nonprofit organization that provides medical and dental care to low-income, uninsured individuals.  Dr. Wirshup coordinates the efforts of approximately 150 volunteer physicians, nurses and specialists, and serves as a mentor to hundreds of pre-med and medical students that come to CVIM for highly-desired internships and clinical rotations. Her efforts helped CVIM greatly improve the effectiveness of its Diabetes Clinic and Diabetes Self-Management and Education Program. Dr. Wirshup is a Fellow of the Academy of Family Practice, and serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Practice at Temple Medical School. Dr. Wirshup was also the recipient of the 2008 Nurse Practitioner Advocate of the Year Award from the State of Pennsylvania.

2013 Dr. Nathan Davis International Award in Medicine

Mark L. Jacobson, MD, MPH, Arusha, Tanzania

Mark L. Jacobson, MD, MPH, has been building public health capacity in East Africa for more than 30 years.  Dr. Jacobson spent two decades transforming a small dispensary in the outskirts of Arusha, Tanzania into the Selian Lutheran Hospital, which now encompasses 10 buildings, 250 employees and 12 physicians. Through the Selian Hospital, Dr. Jacobson has provided care for thousands of marginalized and disabled people, as well as the nomadic Maasi people, including specialized care for women suffering from obstetric fistulas, children with orthopedic problems and individuals living with HIV/AIDS.  Dr. Jacobson developed a school for educating Assistant Medical Officers, and under his guidance scores of young doctors, nurses and techs have received training.  In 2005, Dr. Jacobson spearheaded the fundraising and planning efforts to build a second hospital, the Arusha Lutheran Medical Center, which now offers inpatient and outpatient services to Arusha’s urban population. Dr. Jacobson attended medical school at the University of Minnesota and was honored as a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow three times over the course of his career.

Rebecca Morsch, MD, MPH, Kudjip, WHP, Papua New Guinea

Rebecca Morsch, MD, MPH, is the Director of the Community Based Health Care program of the Nazarene Health Ministry in Papua New Guinea, which trains community-chosen Community Health Volunteers and Village Birth Attendants in one of the United Nation’s designated Least Developed Countries. Dr. Morsch’s training curriculum focuses on prevention and provides culturally-sensitive health education about childbirth and childcare, hygiene, waste management, injury prevention and sexually transmitted diseases.  Dr. Morsch also helped organize Papua New Guinea’s array of community-based health organizations into the Effective Development Empowering the Nation (EDEN) Network. After working as a social worker for more than 15 years, Dr. Morsch changed course and entered medical school at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, and went on to earn a Masters of Public Health degree from Loma Linda University.

VK Raju, MD, FRCS, FACS, Morgantown, WV

VK Raju, MD, FRCS, FACS, is the Founder and Medical Director of the Eye Foundation of America (EFA), a charitable organization that provides eye care in 21 developing countries to combat avoidable childhood blindness. For more than 30 years, Dr. Raju has led the EFA in providing free and subsidized treatment in remote areas, and engaging in health education, practitioner training and research efforts that have advanced the visual health of 1.7 million people. Dr. Raju is also a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at West Virginia University, and has lectureships in various universities across the United States.  He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and of the American College of Surgeons, and has written more than 300 papers, 100 publications and 12 book chapters.

2013 Jack B. McConnell, MD Award for Excellence in Volunteerism

Matthew B. Mandel, MD, Stockbridge, MA

After retiring from a 20-year career as an Anesthesiologist, Matthew B. Mandel, MD decided to shift gears by taking a leadership role in the creation of Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires (VIM Berkshires), a free health care clinic for uninsured and underinsured low-income residents. Prior to retiring in 1997, Dr. Mandel was the Chairman of the Department of Anesthesia at Providence Hospital in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Dr. Mandel has recruited 55 volunteer doctors and clinical providers, as well as 18 off-site specialists. Today, almost 2,000 patients have received treatment at VIM Berkshires over the course of 16,000 visits, and more than 400 patients have received free specialist referrals. Dr. Mandel also serves as a trustee of several other organizations, including the Board of the Community Access to the Arts, the Stockbridge Bowl Association and the Executive Committee of the Berkshire County Medical Society.

View the 30 outstanding 2012 Leadership Award recipients.

View a list of previous Pride in the Profession, Dr. Nathan Davis International and Jack B. McConnell, MD Award recipients.

View a list of previous Leadership Award recipients.

View photos and videos from past award programs on the AMA Foundation Facebook page

Leadership Awards

Developing leaders in medicine 

An exceptional medical professional goes beyond the medical practice to positively influence health care. Through organized medicine and community activities, individuals from each stage of the physician lifecycle can—and do—make a difference in the quality of health care and the medical environment.

The Leadership Awards are presented to approximately 15 medical students, residents/fellows and early career physicians to recognize their strong, nonclinical leadership skills in advocacy, community service and/or education.


All Leadership Awards are self-nominated, with applicants responsible for submitting all appropriate materials and documentation.
To qualify, applicants must demonstrate outstanding leadership in the areas of advocacy, community service, public health and/or education and be either:

  • A medical student enrolled in an accredited medical school
  • A resident physician enrolled in an accredited residency program, or a fellow physician enrolled in a fellowship program
  • An early-career physician under the age of 40 or in his or her first eight years of practice following residency/fellowship

Recipients will attend the Excellence in Medicine Awards ceremony. Award recipients will be invited to attend leadership development training during the AMA Annual Meeting June 10–12, 2016. This training will strengthen leadership skills and result in a greater effort to advance health care in America. Airfare and lodging accommodations are provided, in addition to a nominal reimbursement to help defray travel-related costs.